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Comparing the Nutritional Value of Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts


Which place is healthier?

Despite the best intentions to live out a healthy lifestyle, most of us find ourselves in a fast food breakfast place like Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts to grab a coffee and a muffin. Maybe you don't realize it, but you are making all sorts of quick decisions in the three minutes you are standing in line. Perhaps you are thinking,

"I should go for the low-fat cream cheese."

"Maybe a coffee with milk instead of cream."

"Starbucks has healthier food. I should have gone there."

"I'll get a scone instead of a donut."

We make these quick decisions based on our:

  • craving at the moment
  • beliefs about food
  • assumptions on the nutritional values of certain foods
  • financial situation
  • vulnerability to advertising

I'm not the kind of person who thinks every large chain restaurant should be boycotted. Real life gets in the way of our most highly esteemed ideals, and sometimes- we just want an ooey gooey donut. So how well do you know what you are eating? Are your choices informed? Let's take a quiz and find out.

How informed are you?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. I want a muffin. Should I choose the Apple Bran Muffin from Starbucks or the Honey Bran Muffin from D&D?
    • Starucks
    • D&D
  2. I need some protein. Should I go for the protein box at Starbucks or the Tuna Salad on a croissant at D&D?
    • Starbucks
    • D&D
  3. I want a yummy coffee beverage. Should I go for the Vanilla Frappucino at Starbucks or the Mocha Almond Latte at D&D?
    • Starbucks
    • D&D
  4. How bout some hot chocolate? Should I get the peppermint from Starbucks or the caramel at D&D?
    • Starbucks
    • D&D
  5. I can't decide between a blueberry scone or a glazed donut. Which one is healthier?
    • Scone
    • Donut

Answer Key

  1. Starucks
  2. Starbucks
  3. D&D
  4. D&D
  5. Donut

What influences you?

If you scored an 80% or above, your general assumptions about the differences between Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts weren't that bad. Nice work! However, if you got more than three wrong, you may have to look at some of the holes in your logic.

As much as we'd not like to admit, we are swayed by advertising. Starbucks is marketed as an upscale, Earth friendly, health conscious alternative to Dunkin' Donuts. D&D on the other hand markets as the nation's morning 'fuel'. We are bombarded with messages that in time, start to sway our decision making process.

Sometimes you just want what you want! It isn't about anything else other than satisfying that craving for something specific. People who are health conscious might try to satisfy a need for a donut with a bran muffin, only to find they still want the donut later! A better option would be to either eat a small donut or make one yourself!

Many of us just go to the place that is closest or cheapest. In this economy, it is understandable why people make food decisions based on money.

Good food versus bad food
The diet industry has turned food into a moral issue. Where once people made decisions on items based on taste, now we assimilate "donuts" as bad, "bran" muffins as better, protein boxes as best. Who taught you that? The media and the diet industry. Unfortunately, a lot of these assumptions are wrong. Let's see how you score on this next quiz.

Which has more calories?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. A bagel or a donut?
    • Bagel
    • Donut
  2. A cheese danish or tuna salad on a croissant?
    • Danish
    • Tuna salad
  3. A hot chocolate or a smoothie?
    • Smoothie
    • Hot chocolate
  4. A scone or a muffin?
    • Scone
    • Muffin
  5. A cinnamon bagel twist or a cinnamon swirl cake?
    • Swirl cake
    • bagel twist
Scroll to Continue

Answer Key

  1. Bagel
  2. Tuna salad
  3. Smoothie
  4. Scone
  5. bagel twist

How did you do? If you scored well, congratulations! If you did not, well- you can blame the media for this misunderstanding. We take so much of what they say and assimiliate into our thinking, without first checking the facts.

Below are the actual caloric contents of comparable items from Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. You will see that some of the numbers are surprising. However, what is even more astounding is that in many cases, the foods you think are "bad" are actually lower in calories than the foods you think are "good" for you!

Calorie comparison

All sizes for drinks are small.

Food or DrinkDunkin DonutsStarbucksWinner


Honey Bran 440

Apple Bran 350



Plain 310

Plain 280


Baked Goods

Strawberry Cheese Danish 320

Cranberry Orange Scone 490

D & D

Protein Breakfast

Bacon Egg Cheese 370

Protein Bistro Box 380

D & D

Hot chocolate

Caramel 230

Peppermint 360

D & D


Orange Coolatta 210

Orange Mango Smoothie 270

D & D

Coffee Drink

Mocha Almond Latte 220

Cafe Vanilla Frappucino 310

D & D

Donut or Pastry

Glazed Donut 260

Cinnamon Swirl Cake 340

D & D

Lunch to Go

Tuna Salad on Croissant 650

Cheese and Fruit Box 480


What kind of nutrition is important?

The above chart compared calories. For some people, they want less fat or sugar. Usually the items that are lower in fat tend to be higher in sugar and carbohydrates (and vise versa). Some of these foods offer no other nutritional value like fiber and protein. You need to assess what you are most concerned with. If your goal is to eat less than you burn each day, calories is your bottom line.

As you can see, Starbucks is not necessarily healthier than D&D, despite strategic marketing. Of all the comparisons done, Starbucks only came out on top three times! You might think that a "smoothie" is better than a "coolatta" , but the facts state otherwise.

So is a bagel better than a donut?

All of our assumptions need to get re-evaluated. When you are on the go, you might be tempted to go for a bagel rather than a donut, simply because you feel like a bagel is healthier. It does have more protein than a donut, but in many cases, the donut is less calories, especially because most people have cream cheese on their bagel.

Watch the names of the foods too. A honey bran raisin muffin might sound healthier than cinnamon swirl coffee cake, but the cake has 100 less calories than the muffin. Are you feeling duped yet? You should. The dieting industry and advertisers work overtime to influence us to buy what they want, not what is necessarily good.

Official Nutrition Sites

What should you do?

Take a good hard look at the nutritional value of each food you tend to buy on a regular basis. After months of eating bran muffins (when you'd rather have coffee cake), you might realize your original craving wasn't as bad!

Watch your portions. A baked good, muffin, or pastry from either place is bound to be bigger than it would be if you made at home. Cut it in half, eat the half portion, and wait to see if you are full before continuing.

Another option is to start baking at home. If we compared the nutritional value of these items made from scratch, the results would be astoundingly different! Consider making muffins at home and freezing them. They will taste better too.

As the saying goes, all things in moderation!


About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mom to three. She embarked on a research project one morning after feeling criticized by other mothers for giving her kids donuts. What she discovered, blew her away, and she wanted to share her information with the world. It turns out the plain donut is one of the lowest calorie items between either Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts inventory!

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Goh Tong Keat from Malaysia on August 07, 2017:

I love donuts!

beingwell from Bangkok on November 15, 2012:

Oh my! Honestly, I TRY (hehehe) not to have sweets in my drink. I also TRY (again with the hihihi...) to avoid pastries and sugar-coated desserts. Still, when I do fall into the sweet pit I make up with running and other cardio exercises. It helps me keep my weight, shape and size. Whew! Voted this one up and shared it with my hub friends!

Melissa Propp from Minnesota on September 29, 2012:

Very interesting hub. I always think a muffin sounds better for you than a donut....especially if you stick the word "bran" in the name. Next time I'm going to go for the donut! Neither is going to be healthy, so I might as well enjoy it. Thanks for the informative and well-written article.

carol stanley from Arizona on August 27, 2012:

Now I am just going to get coffee at either place. Almost everything you eat out is not totally healthy...after all it has to taste good to sell..often with salt, sugar and fat. So we take a holiday once in a while. great hub.voted up and shared.

kelleyward on August 27, 2012:

Thanks for writing this. I love how you added the chart. I'm bookmarking this one, although I never eat muffins, bagels, donuts etc., not with diabetes! Voted up and useful. Kelley

Deepak Chaturvedi from New Delhi, India on August 27, 2012:

Interesting and useful hub.has useful tips.thank to share.

Yvonne Spence from UK on August 27, 2012:

We have lots of Starbucks, but not so many DDs here in the UK. Not that it bothers me because I can't stand doughnuts! (Even the thought of eating a glazed doughnut makes me feel sick.)

I agree with your suggestions to eat half or bake at home. I bake tons of muffins, use wholegrain flour and very rarely add sugar to them - I use pureed dates instead.

Aloe Kim on August 27, 2012:

Ah... I failed the first quiz and did OK on the second... :( This is a very fun and informative hub ^_^ I enjoyed it very much and voted a bunch with a side of share ^_^

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 26, 2012:

Fun comparisons and well-written hub! I enjoyed the read and I was surprised at some of the caloric differences. Thank you for sharing this!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 25, 2012:

Well, I refuse to go to Starbucks so my choices in this hub and limited. :) Nice job of comparisons.

mmsu from Pakistan on August 25, 2012:

What a superb hub.Just reading the title made my mouth fill with water.Two of my favorite places.Dunkin Donut's Alaska Supreme is just awesome!!!voted up and shared!

Richard Bivins from Charleston, SC on August 25, 2012:

Haha, this was an interesting comparison but I have to say that when I frequent either of these establishments, health is not on my mind at all. As a matter of fact, I just went to DD this morning for an egg and bacon toaster, although I also chose a bottle of Diet Coke... does that count as a healthy choice? I probably should be a bit more conscious of the nutritional value of their food items but I'm afraid I'm a victim of the opportune marketing which brought me into DD this morning... I was hungry, and they were very close by when I seen the advertisement as I passed the bus stop. :)

Dr Pooja on August 25, 2012:

Hey great job ! I do have coffee at SB and am tempted to take a cake or muffin with it but I make it a point to split it and share with others rather than have it alone .

mts1098 on August 25, 2012:

I enjoyed this comparison...while I do not eat at either establishment, I will take the DD coffee over SB and have tried them both...cheers

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on August 24, 2012:

I know what I should do - go get a Dunkin Donut! lol I actually love them both but we lost our D.D. and I do not have one very close anymore so I really miss it. There's 3 Starbucks within a two mile radius of my house!

I scored an 80% on the first quiz and a 20% on the second...very strange! I really did buy into the media hype!

Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on August 24, 2012:

Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts? What nutritional value?

If one is interested in nutrition, it's preferable to avoid all traditional processed food, make your own breakfast at home from safe, organic foods (including organic oatmeal, which is super healthy). You will know what you're eating, and can ensure that it's not full of high fructose corn syrup, foods laced with pesticide residue or GMOs.

Of course, that's easy for me to say since I'm retired and no longer have to dash out the door to take kids to school or go to the office. Still, it's healthier to set the alarm earlier enough to make time for preparing breakfast (especially if you do some of it the night before).

Yes, I know I sound like the Food Police (which is what my friends and family call me)! Your research is actually quite good, and I applaud your suggestion for people to start baking at home. That's another way to know the nutritional levels (and safety) of what you're eating or feeding your family. If people actually gave some thought to the toxicity of what they're buying and eating, they would be horrified.


Claudia Porter on August 24, 2012:

Great comparisons. Sometimes the things you think would be ok aren't. Just shows you have to pay close attention to the food choices one makes.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on August 23, 2012:

What a concept! comparing Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts on their nutritional value. I'm agree. whatever you say. :))

Joseph De Cross from New York on August 23, 2012:

Amazing statistics Julie. Don't bother myself with either one, but this hub was interesting! Thanks! The chart is pretty awesome!

L Brander from Canada on August 23, 2012:

Interesting Hub, definitely caught my attention! Looks like you did a lot of research for this article, and it really benefited from it. Voted up and shared.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on August 23, 2012:

Julie, this was so very interesting and did rather well on the quizzes I think partly due to my best friend being a registered dietitian and I could hear her pretty much lecturing me on what is good for you versus what isn't. That said I just can't help but love Dunkin Donuts and like you said moderation is the key. I don't got there everyday, but once in a while I can't help but treat myself. Thank you though for this informative and quite enlightening read. Have totally voted up, shared and tweeted as usual!!

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on August 23, 2012:

This is very interesting. I don't eat breakfast out so nonetheless I failed the quiz. But I agree marketing strategies employed by companies easily fool people into thinking some foods are healthier than they really are. Thanks for sharing this information!

Blurter of Indiscretions (author) from Clinton CT on August 23, 2012:

The protein bistro box is a box filled with a hard boiled egg, cheese, fruit, and some pita bread!

Marlene Bertrand from USA on August 23, 2012:

Awesome research! Facts are facts, and you did an amazing job of reporting the facts straight and unbiased. But, I do have one question... What is a protein box? I mean, what's in a protein box? I'm not sure if it is a protein bar or a box with protein in it. I'm not familiar with the term, so I thought I'd ask. It's question #2 on the first quiz. Anyway, I really enjoyed your hub. Fun quizes, too!

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